Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall, OL Mason Cole, OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty, WR Moe Ways, WR Freddy Canteen, WR Drake Harris.
|Hinsdale, IL – 6'7", 227|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||4*, NR overall
#9 TE, #15 IL
|ESPN||4*, #200 overall
#6 TE-H, #8 IL
|24/7||4*, #230 overall
#6 TE, #10 IL
|Other Suitors||ND, FSU, Neb, OSU, OU, UO, USC|
or TE Devin Funchess
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post by me.|
Senior highlights on HUDL. Note that he's pure WR in the above but a WR/TE as a senior.
If Ian Bunting was a track off of R.E.M.'s 1994 album Monster, he would be the King of Catching Radius and how's that for a convoluted reference to a deep cut from a 20-year-old album I don't even like that much. I digress.
The Brady Hoke era has seen Michigan receivers pivot from fleet little bastards to majestic yachts with more catching appendages than Ganesh. Bunting is at the extreme end of that scale, a 6'7"(!) kid with long arms and skillet-sized hands. I think that bit about the hands may literally be true:
"I wear XXXL gloves -- although I might have to go XXXXL next year cause they're getting kind of small (laughter) -- and have size 17 feet."
Bunting can palm a basketball in (on?) one finger. E-fact.
We've just discussed a couple of receivers who aren't totally covered even when they are; Bunting is like that plus three inches and maybe not minus a whole lot of speed, at least in a straight line. Once Bunting gets up to cruise he gets going. His coach:
"He was a great receiver, and I think he was the second fastest kid on the team last year at 6-foot-6, so just athletically tremendous potential."
Tremendous deployment of tremendous there. Some evaluations have the distinct whiff of Funchess:
…dominant during 7-on-7 play, running away from the smaller defensive backs. Bunting has really good ball skills and catches everything thrown his way.
Others just come out and say it. Clint Brewster:
Bunting shows a good burst after the catch and has enough speed to take it the distance. Similar to Michigan’s Devin Funchess, … shows strong hands with the ability to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. He does a great job of catching the football in traffic. … I really like Bunting’s burst in and out of his breaks for as tall and long as he is.
…top-end speed is plenty fast enough to stretch the field deep. Bunting's greatest asset may be his hands. Not only are they soft to catch passes, they're huge and give him great range reeling in the ball.
Overall, Bunting calls to mind another tight end that Michigan fans are very familiar with: U-M sophomore Devin Funchess. He doesn't have quite the burst off the line that Funchess has, but has similar top-end speed.
When Bunting attended the opening he was battling a hamstring issue (one that's thankfully a year old now, knock on wood) and playing tight end for the first time ever, but still impressed. 247 listed him as a riser after a "ton of big plays" and said he proved he was "one of the nation's elite."
[After THE JUMP: hands, hands, lack of blocking, hands, a desire to block.]
Other evaluations are hands, skills, hands: "fantastic hands and ball skills"; caught the ball with "soft hands and arms extended against attached coverage"; "smooth hands" and a "great route runner." Et cetera. ESPN goes into some detail:
Shows good initial burst off the line and has good long-striding speed with the ability to stretch the middle of the field. …very good hands with the ability to consistently extend and snatch the ball away from his body. Possesses good body control and can adjust and grab tough, off-target passes, and demonstrates the ability to pluck effortlessly on the run. Will attack the ball in the air, high-point it and shows he is willing to take a hit to make the catch. Can track the ball vertically well and make the over-the-shoulder grab.
He's a naturally talented wide receiver that happens to be an enormous human. And supposedly he even played in the secondary(!):
Bunting is such a good athlete that he plays tight end on offense and at times lines up at cornerback on defense and despite the fact he has a tight end body he handles himself quite well at cornerback.
I don't believe that for one second, but it's too good to check.
What he's not is polished. Injuries cost him big chunks of his sophomore and junior years—the highlight tape above is just four games because he only played in four—and until his senior year he was strictly a wide receiver.
Compounding matters was the 2013 QB, who was not exactly D-I quality—"little more than a fullback on most downs," quoth Tim Sullivan. Bunting only had ten catches as a result. Most of his highlights are run blocking. That's good in a way since blocking is the question with him, but when you're bringing in a guy with under 30 career catches there are naturally question marks.
Bunting at least seems to have a willingness Funchess (who famously referred to himself as a "pretty boy who didn't want to get hit" after his freshman year) may not have. The Hudl highlights have a certain hard-edged toughness and nastiness to them that is hard-edged and tough. When Sullivan caught him, he was at least displaying the want-to:
More impressive than his technique in blocking, however, was his attitude to finish defenders whenever possible, and take the next level in aggression on the field. … Unlike current Michigan sophomore Devin Funchess, he already has the build of a tight end, rather than a high school receiver who will have to bulk up in a big way to make the transition in college.
ESPN made a similar note in their evaluation:
Blocking is not an area of strength. … Does show a little edginess and a willingness to try to deliver a pop as a blocker. Flashes that he can drop his pad level with the ability to uncoil when making contact and get between the defender and the ball.
His coach makes it sound like he enjoyed getting in the muck:
"…this year he put on 20-pounds he is playing tight end and a little defensive end for us. And I know he is really enjoying it. …
"It is going very well, he likes it, even though he has never done it before. I was a little concerned about it because I had never seen him put his hand on the ground but he seems to like it better down there than he does with the receivers."
That's about all you can reasonably expect in year one as a tight end: effort and attitude as he works towards the technique necessary to be consistently effective. So far so good.
Unfortunately, that's about all we have that takes Bunting's senior year into account. Clint Brewster did revisit him around signing day:
Bunting has rare height and length to go with receiver-like ball skills in the passing game. The four-star prospect is a dangerous receiving threat, with a huge catching radius and the ability to pick up yards after the catch. Has excellent speed and can pick up yards after the catch. Bunting isn’t afraid to block and could develop into more of a traditional tight end that can be attached to line and help out in protection if need be.
So: could be attached to the line. You know, tight to it. In the manner of a tight end. To be fair, this is a step up from 247's take right after his commitment, when Bunting was "the type of tight end that will primarily line up in the slot or sometimes out wide." IE: the type of tight end that is a wide receiver.
Bunting has a ton of potential and a lot of work to reach that. It starts by inflating his muscles to cartoonish proportions, a process that's underway already and a couple years away from nearing completion. Getting low enough to block guys at 6'7" is another challenge, and running a bunch of routes that have to be more precise than "go leapy grab it, sir" is a third.
But man, those hands and how far away from the ground they are. Incubate this guy and you might have a monster.
Within a matter of six hours, Ian Bunting committed to Michigan; Jeb Blazevich selected Georgia; Daniel Helm went to Tennessee; and Nic Weishar closed the spree by pledging to Notre Dame.
Why Jesse James or tight end Devin Funchess? There is really no comparable in the annals of Michigan tight ends. When Funchess committed I went with OSU's Jake Stoneburner because the lanky quasi-WR had simply not existed at M, and now Funchess is a WR.
Bunting's bigger than Funchess and less likely to evoke a Calvin Johnson comparison; he's probably going to need to actually be a tight end to be a mismatch. He's suggested that he can do that once he fills out. A version of Funchess that actually blocked some guys and couldn't plausibly claim to run a 4.3 40 is still the closest thing I've got when it comes to Michigan.
Outside of M: PSU's Jesse James is a 6'7", 254-pound junior (unless he's 272!) who looks to have about the same level of athleticism that Bunting does:
That's about where I expect him to end up in a couple years.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. Inherently hard guy to rank with the injuries and position move and lack of senior QB, but he did go to a number of camps and the Opening.
Variance: High. To get Bunting to a college-size tight end takes a lot of projection, and there's the obvious possibility he ends up a tweener. Then add in injuries that cost him as both a sophomore and a junior and his lack of catching, you know, passes as a senior and there's a lot that could go wrong.
Ceiling: High. Devin Funchess, but tall! (He won't be as fast unless we win the lottery but he can have as much of an impact if he can block somebody.)
General Excitement Level: High. I know there's a lot that could go wrong, but gotdamn the kid is the king of catching radius, and he's got skillet hands yo.
Projection: Please Baby Redshirt, bless this tight end. There is some possibility they play Bunting with Butt recovering from his ACL tear and Funchess split wide. It wouldn't make any sense what with Michigan's receiving depth… but Michigan tends to burn a lot of redshirts.
Down the road: Butt's going to be around the next couple years as well and seem unlikely to relinquish his spot, so playing time might be a little sparse. If Funchess is in the NFL next year there is a redzone fade merchant role up for grabs that Bunting should grab. Otherwise he'll spot Butt and maybe get some 2 catchin' TE snaps or snaps out wide. That should also be the case in two years.
As a redshirt junior, Butt will have graduated and Bunting will have every opportunity to be Godzilla, but tall.